Nyjer Morgan was caught stealing twice in yesterday’s game (although one came on a botched hit-and-run try) and manager Jim Riggleman revealed that he gave Morgan a little pep talk in the dugout following the first failed steal attempt:
I said, “You know what? It seems like they throw the ball right on the button.” He never gets a break. I just wanted him to stay positive and realize the catcher made a great throw. That’s baseball. He was aggressive [and] the catcher made a great throw. When Nyjer’s out there, they’re on their “A game” in terms of stopping him from running.
Just a friendly tip for Riggleman: It’s not that opposing catchers are “on their ‘A game'” when Morgan is running, it’s that Morgan is such a low-percentage base-stealer that he makes catchers look good. Morgan led the league in caught stealing last season and in 2009, getting gunned down 17 times each year. For his career he’s 92-for-134 on the bases, which is a “success” rate of 68.6 percent that qualifies as terrible (for comparison, Carl Crawford has a success rate of 81.9 percent).
Saying catchers step up their game when Morgan runs is like saying pitchers step up their game when Jack Wilson is at the plate or hitters step up their game when Oliver Perez is on the mound. Nyjer Morgan is very fast, but he’s an awful base-stealer and his awful stolen base percentages have far more to do with him than with catchers. The statement “he never gets a break” is only accurate if Riggleman was referring to Morgan’s inability to get a good jump from first base.
In the end, the Mets’ march into the playoffs played out just how they imagined: three innings of a Bartolo Colon perfecto, four combined innings of one-run ball from five different relievers, a James Loney home run. Well, maybe it looked a little different when they drew it up.
Colon guided the Mets through five innings for his 15th win of the year, striking out six and giving up a two-run homer in the fifth. Behind him, the Mets combined for five runs off of RBI base hits from T.J. Rivera and Jose Reyes, finding an edge with Loney’s go-ahead homer in the sixth and a bonus RBI single from Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth inning. Despite a pair of well-placed home runs by Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf, the Phillies found themselves in scoring position just twice and were unable to close the two-run gap to tie the game.
The Mets’ 5-3 win over the Phillies clinched their spot in the postseason, sans tiebreaker. They also secured home-field advantage for Wednesday’s wild card game, during which they’ll face either the Cardinals or the Giants. On Friday, the wild card winner will advance to the Division Series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
As MLB.com’s Jeff Passan and Joe Trezza simultaneously pointed out, it will be an unconventional playoff run for the Mets, who approach October without Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Neil Walker, David Wright, Zack Wheeler, or Ben Zobrist. Now, if ever, seems like an appropriate time for some champagne.
With Game 1 of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS set to commence on Thursday, there’s no better starter for the job than Corey Kluber. The only question is whether or not the right-hander will be up to the task after sustaining a mild quadriceps strain earlier this week.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona appeared optimistic about Kluber’s chances of recovering in time for the Division Series, but admitted that he doesn’t have his rotation set in stone for the first couple of postseason games. Complicating matters is Monday’s potential make-up game between the Indians and the Tigers, which they’ll be forced to play if the outcome has bearing on playoff seeding.
Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Francona doesn’t have a starter for the make-up game, either, though he clarified that rehabbing right-hander Danny Salazar would not be eligible. Salazar is still working his way back from a forearm injury in hopes of joining the Indians for their postseason run, and needs to toss another simulated game before he can be expected to return to the mound. Kluber, meanwhile, will throw off the mound on Sunday.
With Kluber or Salazar limping out of the gate, the Indians will likely have to fall back on right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Bauer is slated for Saturday’s face-off against the Royals and confirmed his willingness to pitch on short rest through the playoffs. The 25-year-old also spoke to the Indians about his ability to pitch out of the bullpen, though it’s an option they appear unlikely to exercise. While Francona’s comments on Friday stressed the club’s patient approach toward their rotation, Bauer appeared revved and ready to go:
If it was up to me, […] I’d pitch and be ready to start or be available out of the ‘pen every game. In the playoffs, there’s really no reason to save anything. So, whenever I can get in there, whenever they want me to get in there, I’ll be ready.